Published: Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 5:27 p.m. Last Modified: Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 5:27 p.m.
Recent tension between health care advocates and predominantly Catholic institutions about preventive health care measures that include insurance coverage for contraceptives has again highlighted conflicts involving religious freedom. It’s not a new debate.
Religious organizations have sought and occasionally received exemptions from rules that apply to others. Courts have examined religious exemption clashes case by case; for example, protecting the ability of churches to make core religious decisions, but denying broader claimed exemptions from health and safety regulations.
Lawyers, scholars and civil libertarians have differed on how to resolve conflicts between sometimes competing values: an individual’s right to exercise religious expression free of government regulation; the need to uniformly enforce neutral rules on important issues like rules barring employment discrimination, the obligation of government not to interfere in the core mission of religious institutions and the need to safeguard the religious freedom of those of one religious faith (or no religious faith) from being subjected to the rules of others’ faith. The government’s efforts to ensure that all women have access to contraceptives as part of the national health care law is creating conflict with the Catholic Church and some religiously affiliated organizations. The government’s current plan is to require that insurance companies provide coverage for contraceptives for women not only to regulate fertility but that doctors also prescribe to treat a variety of medical conditions. (This includes women whose religious principles do not bar the use of contraceptives.)
But this most recent flare-up is especially troubling in Florida. Here, some of the same groups that are demanding exemption, based on religious freedom, from parts of the national health care plan are, at the same time, asking voters to give them long-forbidden access to tax dollars to help fund their religious activities.
This radical departure from Florida’s 125-year constitutional tradition of “no aid” to religious institutions will appear as proposed Amendment 8 on November’s ballot, written by the Legislature in a cleverly deceptive way that is designed to seduce voters into supporting “religious freedom.” On closer inspection, “religious freedom” means the “freedom” to get access to tax dollars.
These Florida groups want to exempt themselves from some government laws if those laws conflict with their religious practices, while insisting that government fund those very same religious practices. They want the money but not the rules.
That position seems a bit hypocritical. It is also short-sighted. Many defenders of religious liberty and far-sighted faith leaders oppose government funding of religion in part because government money comes with government strings. It’s naive to think that government will not require recipients of public funds, including religiously affiliated institutions, to account for how those funds are spent.
By asking to be let out of rules that apply to everyone else, churches also are creating a slippery slope. If churches can opt out of policies that infringe on their beliefs, taxpayers might claim the right to opt out of paying taxes used for religious practices they don’t support. They also may want to opt out of having to pay taxes for even nonreligious uses they disagree with or that violate their conscience, such as funding wars or providing foreign aid.
But we can’t. Taxes aren’t optional.
Read the original here:
Having it both ways on ‘religious freedom'